British politician Daniel Hannan's Inventing Freedom is an ambitious account of the historical origin and spread of the principles that have made America great and their role in creating a sphere of economic and political liberty that is as crucial as it is imperiled.
The ideas and institutions we consider essential to maintaining and preserving our freedoms - individual rights, private property, the rule of law, and the institutions of representative government - are the legacy of a very specific tradition that was born in England and was inherited by Americans, along with other former British colonies. By the 10th century, England was a nation-state whose people were already starting to define themselves with reference to inherited common-law rights. The story of liberty is the story of how that model triumphed: How it was enshrined in a series of landmark victories - the Magna Carta, the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, the US Constitution - and how it came to defeat every international rival.
Today we see those ideas abandoned and scorned in the places where they once went unchallenged. Inventing Freedom is a chronicle of the success of Anglosphere exceptionalism, and it is offered at a time that may turn out to be the end of the age of political freedom.
©2013 Daniel Hannan (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
As an American, I had always traced the roots of freedom back through philosophers from the Scottish Enlightenment, the School of Salamanca, Aquinas, and back to Plato. This book gave another historical perspective on the roots of freedom and the curious fact that English speaking nations seem further ahead than their neighbors.
Hannan's work suffers from only one lingering question - why did Eastern nations like Korea adopt this tradition? They do not speak English but have unleashed a firestorm of invention. It seems the Christian connection might prove deeper than the Anglosphere one, but I am sure Hannan has an answer.
I love theory, history, and non fiction in general. That being said, I could not get through even half of this book. The reading style was wooden and it was like being at the worst college lecture.
An historical perspective through the ages of the Anglo sphere by individuals who where promenent followed by a very concise conclusion.
Learning Spanish via Pimsleur during early dog walks; enjoying other books w surplus time; find some books are better read than heard!
Here is the story of the world's brightest hope for 'ordered liberty' today. It is the heart-stirring story of leaders being accountable to their people, of common law that respects beneficial tradition, in its concrete splendor, over the abstractions of elites grasping autocracy, of civility favoring the flourishing of commerce from the hamlets to the Hamptons
Nothing in this book is new to anyone who has studied English history or modern political thought. It is however unlikely that any causal reader will have encountered any of the very powerful concepts presented in this book, except in parody. After reading or listening to Inventing Freedom even the most unpatriotic will regard American and British history with an new sense of pride and optimism-- regardless of their ethnic back ground. Hannan makes it clear for all to see that the real joke is our trendy set of modern transformative revolutionaries: they would do well to reevaluate their own political beliefs in the light of some of Hannan's basic history.
The absolutely clear linearity of it all and the rather tenuous chance the void left by Roman withdrawal from Britain would by chance be filed by egalitarian customs that became extinct on the continent.
And so many times a close run thing even to our modern times.
Survival of common law traditions after the Norman Conquest.
The general discussion on how the anglosphere is what it is in large extent because we are all of us much like islands.
The misfortunes immediately following 1066
This book gets added to my permanent elite library.
I'm a student of our history, but this is the first deep explanation of who we are as a unique people derived from the ideological genes of our forefathers' forefathers. We are the inheritors of the Second British civil war!
This book does not lend itself to scene as it is not a romance novel but a history narrative with some autobiographical elements from the author.
COMPARE THIS BOOK TO OTHER BOOKS:
Inventing Freedom: is very complementary to another book “An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America” by Nick Bunker. Inventing Freedom provides cultural context into the mind of Lord North and the 18th century minds who totally misread the American character resulting in the loss of Britain’s American colonies and their sometimes skeptical estrangement to the Anglosphere. A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage is another book that complements this book. I have more to say about this at the end.
This is a great book if one ever wondered where the concepts we all accept as common to our English heritage and culture came from. What concepts? Representative government as it evolved from the first limits on kingly power, the concept of innocent until proven guilty before a jury of our peers, the right to dispose of our property as we wish through a will, whether wealth is held by the individual or is in trust and the community as a whole has a say in its distribution at death, the judicial concepts of common law and judicial precedence, and many more ideas we of the English speaking world hold in common as natural, fitting, and dare say self-evident. Mr. Hannon also shows how other cultures in Europe view some of these same concepts very differently. His insights from when he worked in the European Parliament representing South East England gave him firsthand knowledge of the differences between Grate Britain and the rest of Europe as he labored harmonize English legal concepts with the rest of Europe. If one grew up in an all English culture one would be surprised on just how different the rest of the continent can be.
In the book, the author seeks to promote and reinforce the concept of the Anglosphere. That there is a common tribe of similar values that is worldwide as a byproduct of the former British Empire that lives on through the British Commonwealth and with the United States sharing many if not all these values. This seductive concept is not unattractive. It may even be a default preference setting. There is much to be said about the comfort one feels in cultures that think as you do; who have similar legal standards and liberty values.
Through the long history and development of these standard, liberties, and freedom one becomes conditioned to think … that’s right … I agree … go on … tell me more. This pattern of agreement predisposes one to accept, almost unconsciously, the concept of Anglosphere exceptionalism and perhaps suggesting, dare I say, Anglosphere hegemony. Let me be clear, the author did not use the word hegemony. It is just something one feels between the lines. Especially when listening to his reaction to someone the author feels was not towing the Anglosphere line.
As a tour de force of a when, where, how, and by whom these ideas, beliefs, and values first appeared in our cultural fabric this book is hard to beat. I highly recommend it. However, to culturally English people there is a seductive quality of assent that could lead to rather dark path ways where pride of fellowship could become the arrogance of self-congratulations blinding us to possible error.
With all of the above superlatives, I do have one gripe about the content of the book; specifically one chapter of the book. The author is what one would call in the United States an arch conservative; this in itself is not a bad thing. I tend to be conservative myself. However, the author let his politics get the better of his common sense. Rather than be gracious and forgiving of what the author perceived as a gift-of-state protocol slight to the Queen of the United Kingdoms or “faux pas” (pardon the use of French words in this book about the Anglosphere, very English view) from a young newly elected President Barco Obama; the author used this incident to project his fears that America was going to downgrade or perhaps outright abandon its political and cultural alliance with the greater English speaking cultures of the world. President Obama may not be the author’s cup of tea politically, however, I respectfully suggest that it is counterproductive to launch into an offensive political screed, worthy of Fox News, of a world leader with whom the author disagree on methods, not big picture substance. This is not a way to promote the author’s theme Anglosphere exceptionalism that binds us together as one world dominate culture worthy of embrace. My advice to the American listener is that when this chapter in the book appears, that you exorcise good manners the author failed to exorcise and skip over it. On the whole, the book is a brilliant scholarly work that rests flavorfully on the intellectual palate. It will satisfy one nicely if one picks off the single chapter of pure crap with which the author chose to garnish the plate.
On a final note, there can be a dark side to all this Kumbaya Anglosphere isn’t it wonderful to be among your fellow thinkers and cultural peers view. That can be seen in the book A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage. Mr. Standage’s thesis is understanding civilization through man’s need for safe and healthy hydration. He divides world history into six stages based on the dominate beverage of the age. The first three drinks (beer, wine, & distilled spirits) are alcohol based and allowed civilization to develop because of the germ killing aspect of alcohol based drinks that could be mixed with water to purify it. The next three drinks (coffee, tea, & Cola) are caffeine based drinks two of which require water to be boiled in preparation thus making the water safe to drink. The fifth age of tea shows the Anglosphere in a less flattering light as the East India Company sought to subdue America by importing tea directly to America undercutting the smugglers price and granting monopoly rights to sell the tea to its agents. This rapacious fusion of Anglo superiority combined with Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations unrestrained free market ideas drove America to revolt and lead later to the ruin of China. Again there is nothing wrong in enjoying the common warmth of the glow of the Anglosphere provided that one does not come to the opinion that it is the only sphere that counts.
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